No bloom in spring slump

April has always been the second cruelest month of the year in the theater. September takes top honors in the B.O. raspberry sweepstakes. Late summer suffers from back-to-school syndrome, while spring sees too many shows competing for too few theatergoers. Last week, most productions suffered, and some put in their lowest-grossing sessions to date.

Curiously, Broadway’s current count comes to only 31 shows, under par for the end of April. Those shows produced a total tally of $14,535,856, down $1,307,784, or 8.25%, from the previous session. The early-May time frame in 2000 continues to hold the record of $14.84 million. Back then, there were 26 productions on the boards. Paid attendance then came to 277,109; last week it was 228,131.

As the 2003-04 season winds down, revivals present an interesting contrast between the plays and the tuners.

On the musical front: Despite a posted May 30 close, “Gypsy” ($350,529) produced its lowest numbers to date, off $92,592 from the previous session. Down a huge $118,349, “Little Shop of Horrors” ($277,035) also hit a new low. Ditto “Wonderful Town” ($394,587), which slipped $36,225.

“Fiddler on the Roof” ($596,197) looks wobbly after only eight weeks out of the box; its receipts were off $106,752. By comparison, “Gypsy” was doing $819,391 at a smaller theater two months into its run.

Also taking a big six-figure hit was “42nd Street” ($527,132), down $120,587, which put it in the No. 11 slot on the B.O. chart.

At No. 14, “Chicago” ($474,784) dropped $27,978 and reverted to January-level biz.

Too soon to tell: “Assassins” ($331,022) rose $25,533 in its first full week of regular perfs, with capacity running at 85.9%. Or is this revival really a new musical? The Tony committee decides Thursday.

While musical revivals look B.O.-challenged, play revivals have emerged as the real winners of the current season. It should be noted that, despite negative reviews for its leading lady, Ashley Judd pushed “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” into profitable territory. If opening week of “A Raisin in the Sun” ($441,627) is any indication, lighting may strike twice. B.O. there rose $48,238 and, despite a comped opening night, the show set a house record at the Royale Theater. The Sean Combs starrer should have no problem breaking the $500,000 mark next week, at which time it will enter the hallowed B.O. territory of “Cat” and “Henry IV” with Kevin Kline. Another comparison: Last season’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” put in several weeks over the $600,000 mark.

Richard Dreyfuss missed four perfs of “Sly Fox” ($318,725) last week and showed just how important a star is to a play revival. Receipts there fell a significant $107,274.

“Twentieth Century” ($285,827) with Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche continues to chug along, its receipts up $42,748. It’s not quite a sellout, but cap runs at 90.2%.

Do we smell star power here? Judd, Combs, Kline, Dreyfuss, Baldwin and Heche have a movie/TV/CD pedigree that the musical-revival headliners just don’t possess. Most play revivals also are limited runs, which helps to goose ticket sales. That strategy, plus some of the best reviews of the season, produced an increase of $88,732 for “Jumpers” ($328,305).

As for new fare, most critics didn’t embrace “Bombay Dreams” ($565,683) or “Caroline, or Change” ($280,999), both of which put in seven perfs for their heavily comped preem weeks. The last comparison: Out of the gate, “Taboo” mustered $320,872 for seven back in November.

Still in previews, “Prymate” ($37,245) continues to attract astonishing indifference. “Frozen” ($52,933) managed slightly better numbers for its first six previews.

Elsewhere under the top 10, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” ($389,497) got hit the worst, its receipts off $125,509. “Golda’s Balcony” ($155,776) sustained the smallest loss, down just $814.

In between those declines, five-figure downticks affected “The Phantom of the Opera” ($510,071), “Aida” ($480,232), “Rent” ($293,646), “Match” ($251,739), “I Am My Own Wife” ($150,374) and “Avenue Q” ($336,577), which saw its lowest numbers of 2004. The other shows have all seen worse (but not much worse) weekly biz this year.

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